Hey everyone, Mike McClellan Pro professional here to talk springtime jerkbait fishing. And, you know, to me, springtime is probably the most prolific time of the year that jerkbaits are really considered a big part of what we do on tour or what any of you guys do just out there trying to catch bass and as many of them as you can catch. And when you really stop and think about, you know, what happens in the spring and what the fish are doing when they start staging for that pre-spawn period, you know, working into the spawn and then into the post-spawn, there's a lot of different jerkbaits that come into play.
Probably first and foremost, day in and day out the McStick 110 is gonna be my go-to. It is a bait that can be fished at a variety of different depths. You know, I can fish this bait up as shallow as three or four foot, and I can fish this bait out over deep, deep water, you know, catching suspended fish out of timber, around boat docks, and so many different types of places.
The biggest thing that you've gotta understand is kind of what happens in the springtime when you really start breaking it down. When you transition from winter into that springtime period, the biggest key to understanding what's happening and why a jerkbait is so effective in the pre-spawn period of the year, it's basically everything that mother nature has going on.
The first and foremost thing that I think starts to make that happen is the length of the days. When we finally get to the shortest day of the year in the winter and the days start getting longer, mother nature starts ticking and the bass's clock starts ticking. When we start seeing those warmer nights start happening and you start seeing the longer days, a lot more sunshine and the water temperature starts rising, that to me is when jerkbaits really become effective.
I know growing up as a youngster, you know, fishing Table Rock and Bull Shoals and Beaver, those clear water Highland reservoirs that we have there in the Ozarks, one of the biggest misconceptions I think I had as a youngster was when do you start bass fishing in the spring? And my uncle was a guide on Table Rock. I had two or three other family members, my grandfather, my dad that fished. And they always told me, "You know, there's no use even going bass fishing until the water temperature gets to be 50, 52 degrees."
Well, as I started fishing and I started becoming a more avid angler, I didn't wanna wait till the water temperature became 50 degrees. And it became pretty evident to me the first two or three springs that I really put the time in and the effort in that it's not about a magic water temperature. It's about when the water temperature finally starts rising in the spring. When you get that first little burst of warm weather, when you get three or four days of a warm and the water temperature jumps up three or four degrees, I don't care if the water temperature's been 38, 39 degrees, and it warms up to 41 or 42, all of a sudden, those fish start becoming active.
The bait fish start rising in the water column and that to me is probably the biggest reason a jerkbait works so good in the spring. Once that bait starts moving up out of the creek channels and starts filtering into the creeks and, you know, following the creek channels to the points and their channel bends and things like that, but it starts lifting up the bass, basically just follow them.
And there's a lot of reasons I think they do that. Number one, they wanna feed, but number two, everything is moving up in the water column to start warming up. They've been in that cold, cold winter water all winter, and they're ready to warm up. They're ready to move on with the process. So a jerkbait to me is just that perfect bait to get it done in the spring.
When the pre-spawn first hits, probably the first bait that I'm gonna be working those areas with. And it's so much easier now than it used to be because we can truly look out in front of us with our Garmin LiveScope and see what depth those fish are at, what depth the shad are at. But the 110 Plus One is probably gonna be that first bait that I pick up in the pre-spawn period. The reason for that it's a deeper diving bait. This particular bait I can get down in that 7 to 13-foot range. When those fish are really just starting to pull up, I can get the bait down to them and coax them into biting.
One of the big things that I have to say about springtime jerkbait fishing, generally my opinion from the time that water temperature first starts warming up until the water temperature gets to be up in the 60-degree range, the one factor about a jerkbait that I wanna make sure day in and day out is that this bait is suspending in the water column.
When I throw this bait out and pull it down beside the boat, I don't want that bait to rise to the surface. I want that bait to be dead suspending, and it doesn't even bother me for the bait to be falling just a little bit. And there's a couple different ways you can accomplish this.
Most of the baits, I mean, they're built to suspend, but the water temperature is gonna affect how buoyant this bait is. If the water is super, super cold, it's gonna take a little bit less weight to get that bait to suspend. As that water temperature warms up a little bit, the bait's gonna become more buoyant, the water becomes less dense and the bait tends to float up a little bit so you may have to add a little bit more weight.
I typically like to start by adding a bigger hook. The baits come with number five-round bend Gamakatsus. And I like to start on the front with the number four. If the bait isn't quite heavy enough, I'll move to the middle with the number four. And if I have to, I'll go to the rear with the number four. And that generally somewhere in that hook change process, you'll find that happy medium, where that bait will truly suspend.
And a lot of people that I've talked to over the years that are just like, "Man, I just, I'm not a good jerkbait fisherman. I just don't catch them in the spring like, you know, I see you doing." And the big key, I think there is, you've gotta make sure that bait, whether it's a 110 Plus One or the 110, you gotta make sure those baits are suspending proper in the water column.
The biggest reason for that is fish are cold-blooded. I mean, they're not gonna move any faster than that water temperature is gonna allow or want them to move. I mean, they've been in, you know, upper 30-degree water and they're not gonna get after it. So the suspending characteristic of this bait is gonna allow you to hover the bait right in front of these fish.
I've used the analogy so many different times that, you know, if you just ate a dinner and you're pretty full, and somebody hollers at you, "Hey, I got a plate of cookies. You want one?" You're probably gonna turn it down. But even if you're full and somebody comes up and waves that plate of cookies in your face and just kind of hangs it there, you're probably gonna think about reaching out there and getting one. And that's the same way I feel like a stick bait works on a bass.
When you pull that stick bait down and you stop it and you let it sit there and you count to 5 to 10 to 15, the longer that bait sits there and intrigues that bass, then you give it a little twitch or a nudge, that bass is eventually gonna reach out there and get it. So that's kind of my analogy of why you want that bait to suspend.
When you start talking about color choices and things of that nature, you know, my rule of thumb has always been, it's not about the water color specifically that is gonna dictate what color stick bait I throw. It's more about the condition of the day. The water color does factor into it, but it it's more about the condition of the day, how hard the wind's blowing, how dark the skies are, how sunny the skies are.
So anytime I'm fishing, you know, really clear water on a day that the wind is fairly light, I'm gonna really stick to translucent colors. You know, something like Ghost Minnow, Blue Bandit is a fairly translucent color, and baits that don't necessarily have a lot of opaque colors to them. The new Matte Shad is another good example of a bait that's fairly translucent.
And the reason for that is with the lighter winds, the fish just don't see the bait as well. So they're more apt to eat it. It looks more natural to them. Now, if you get situations where you get higher winds and a lot of chop on the water where the sun's deflected, that's when I'm gonna go to the more opaque colors, you know, even something like Midnight Blue or something like a Dirty Bone, something that's got a lot of flash power, something that when you hit that bait, even though there's a lot of...you know, the water color's clear, but there's a lot of movement in the water, it's gonna just show up a lot better and the fish are gonna be able to find baits like that.
Then you start talking about maybe some of these wild colors. Delta Chrome, anytime the water color does get a little bit stained, I think the flash of Delta Chrome, the red head is gonna be a good bait to throw. And then a bait like this is one of those baits that even in dirty dingy off water conditions, you've got so many different color variations, a lot of flash that you can draw a lot of baits, but don't be afraid to throw these baits in a clear water situation as well.
You know, talking about the pre-spawn period, my general cadence, when I'm fishing a jerkbait in pre-spawn is probably a little bit slower than a lot. I mean, you watch some of these other guys that catch a lot of fish on a jerkbait, and typically you see them, you know, really ripping that bait and really putting a lot of action into it. But probably when I'm fishing a jerkbait early in the spring, a big key is gear ratio on my reel. I'm always gonna throw a five to one gear ratio reel in the pre-spawn period. I'm gonna throw a jerkbait on a six and a half to seven-foot Falcon rod of some kind. I really like the jerkbait rod. It's a six-foot eight-inch rod and allows me, you know, to throw that bait into tight places, around boat docks, around timber, things like that.
A lot of times when I'm throwing a 110 and I'm wanting to suspend that bait, I literally have to make myself just sit there and count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 in my head and it makes me slow down. And I think that's probably the most effective thing that I've ever learned about really making myself slow down. Again, slow gear ratio reel is really, really important. Five to one gear ratio, eight to 12-pound Sunline FC Crank, wind that bait down when you first throw it in, stop it, twitch it a couple times, count to 8 or 10, let it set, take up the slack, give it a good long pull. Stop it again. Then they usually follow that up with a couple twitches. Just kind of a pull, twitch, twitch cadence that I like the best for fishing that McStick 110 suspending in cold water.
There's been times that I actually will let that bait set up to 30 seconds. If I know I'm over the top of a brush pile, or I'm hovering over a ball of bait fish that I can see on my Garmin LiveScope, I'm just gonna let that bait, hover and hover, as long as it takes to get a fish to start reacting to it. And then a lot of times, if you put a good, hard snap into it, you can get those fish to react to it. So that's just kind of my general cadence when I'm throwing a jerkbait in that pre-spawn period of the year. And again, that goes for whether it's the McStick 110, or the 110 Plus One. That's gonna be my general cadence.
Now, when you start talking about working through that pre-spawn period, when those fish start getting a little closer to spawning, then you can speed things up. And I'm gonna probably continuously throw those same baits. I'm probably gonna lay off the 110 Plus One, and I'm gonna focus more my efforts to the 110. And I still want that bait to suspend because so often, even when you start speeding that bait up, you're gonna find that those fish will follow that bait. They'll follow it, but when you kill it and stop it, that's when they want to come get it. And so often I've noticed that if that bait's floating away from them, they just lose interest in it too quick. A lot of times I'd rather that bait be going down instead of coming up. So even a little added weight isn't a bad deal.
Another little bait that I throw as you get closer to the spawn is gonna be the McStick 95. It's just a shorter version of the 110. It's a two-hook model. And as you can see, I've got a bigger hook on the front of this one to do just what I was talking about. Make sure this bait is gonna suspend when those water temperatures are below that 60 to 65-degree mark. And this is a bait that I really feel like comes into play based on the forage size.
Probably one of the biggest things that I really pay attention to is, you know, when you're fishing a body of water and you start seeing a lot of shore minnows or real small thread fin shad, I really believe sometimes this 95 will get you bites when the 110 won't.
So definitely mix this bait in. It's a bait that you can fish up there a little bit shallower. It's a bait that I like to fish in that, you know, three to five-foot range. And typically, I work this with a little bit more erratic action, because like I said, we're getting into that more later pre-spawn period where those fish are really starting to move up. Maybe even starting to think about making beds. And you're just trying to get those fish to react. So this is a real erratic action jerk bait.
And another big key about throwing a jerkbait in the pre-spawn and spawn season is typically gonna be line size. I am very, very much a fan of throwing a jerkbait on either Sunline Super Natural monofilament, generally somewhere between 8 and 12 pound. And then if I'm not throwing the Sunline Super Natural monofilament, I throw the Sunline FC Crank in that same range somewhere between 8 and 14-pound test.
And the reason that I vary my line size is to help achieve the depths that I want to achieve with this bait. The smaller diameter line or the smaller test that I throw, the deeper I'm gonna be able to get this bait. So if I wanna hold this bait up in the water column, all I have to do is go up to a 10, 12, 14-pound test, and I can actually tell, take away the depth diving ability of this bait and hold it up in the water column.
The biggest thing that I will say is I do not like to throw a jerkbait on a straight fluorocarbon line. The FC Crank is actually a fluorocarbon baseline, but it still has kind of a neutral buoyancy aspect in the water. So it's not gonna drag the bait down when you go into those pausing sessions with the bait.
As you move on into that actual spawn time of the year. And this isn't necessarily considered a jerkbait, but the new SPRO Zero Minnow that's in the Essential line is actually a wake bait. And once you get to that spawning period, when those fish really start getting up and making beds, the one thing that they cannot stand is something swimming over the top of their heads on the surface of the water. And I've found this Zero Minnow allows you to wake it over the top of beds, especially when those fish are spawning a little bit deeper. And you can draw a lot of strikes from bass, even on the Zero Minnow when you get into the actual spawning period of the year.
So one thing about it, you know, I kind of threw this Zero Minnow in is part of the jerkbait line, and it can definitely be fished as a jerkbait. It's a bait that you can just wind very slow, right under the surface, but the true effective way to throw this is keeping that thing on the surface. And the big key to throwing this bait is when you first make your throw, you wanna keep your rod at about 10 or 11 o'clock. As you get that bait closer to you, you just actually wanna follow it down with your rod tip, where you end up probably down in about the seven o'clock position, and you're gonna keep that bait just hovering right there on the surface, throwing that V wake. So definitely go from that, you know, suspending style jerkbait to a bait that you can actually throw on the surface and wake over the top of them.
Another bait that really comes into play for me, fishing during the actual spawn is gonna be the McStick 115. The 115 different than the 110 in the aspect that this bait is actually designed to be a floater diver. So when you've got fish up there on the of beds and you can't get them to react to the Zero Minnow, you can throw this floater diver up there around the beds, twitch it down, kind of into the bed, let it float back up. And a lot of times you'll draw fish, especially when they get to that period where they're guarding fry. They can't stand, you know, a brim or something coming into their bed and trying to eat the fry. And when this thing dies down and then floats up, you'll get a lot of bites from spawn and fish with the McStick 115.
Moving on to the post-spawn period, things really change when you get to the post-spawn period, just due to the fact that, you know, fish have gone through that spawning ritual, they're getting a lot more aggressive. They wanna start feeding up their guarding fry. And again, that's when the McStick 115 and the Zero Minnow are probably my first choices. But when they get really aggressive and they start pulling out on those long points, suspending out on bluff ends and getting out around tree tops and things like that, the 110 can still be a real strong player.
I'm gonna increase the speed of my retrieve. I'm gonna make the bait, you know, work a lot more erratically. And to sum it up, I mean, a jerkbait is definitely a bait you can fish from the very beginning of pre-spawn all the way through the post-spawn period of the year.
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